Hearty Italian comfort food with this Spinach and Meatball Pasta Casserole. Whole wheat penne pasta, marinara sauce, spinach, mushrooms, bell peppers and mozzarella all baked into a cozy casserole.
Spring is officially here. I made sure to check since it doesn’t quite feel like it’s here yet in the beautiful Bay Area. There has been some wonderful days, but the colder days have me craving comfort food. This Spinach and Meatball Pasta Casserole will fill you up and warm the soul. It was a bit difficult to name since it’s basically a pasta a meatball dish, but it’s all mixed together and baked into a gooey and crisp meal.
Spinach (there’s bell peppers and mushrooms in here too) are a common year-round, but especially abundant in spring. To make use of this I’ve added handfuls to the Meatball Pasta Casserole. It’s wilts and cooks down so you can really load it in there…yay for extra flavor and vitamins! All the veggies are cooked ahead of time until just tender to reduce baking time; same goes for the penne pasta. If you can find whole-wheat noodles go with that for a healthier option.
To speed things up I used pre-cooked chicken meatballs, but you can also sub with your favorite homemade meatball recipe. Note to self: post that mozzarella stuffed meatball recipe soon. It wouldn’t be a pasta casserole without sauce either. Marinara sauce adds rich and full of flavor, with just the right consistency.
Flavor profiles: Rich, savory, meaty and cheesy.
Texture: Tender and crisped pasta noodles with chunks of veggies and whole meatballs; slightly saucy too.
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Spinach and Meatball Pasta Casserole
- 8 ounces dry whole-wheat penne noodles
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 1 large green bell pepper, diced
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms
- 3 cups packed fresh spinach leaves
- 48 ounces marinara sauce
- 12 pre-cooked chicken or beef meatballs
- 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven to 375° F. Cook noodles according to package directions. Remove from heat and drain. Stir in 1-tablespoon olive oil to prevent sticking.
- Meanwhile heat remaining olive oil to medium-high heat in a large pan. Add onions, salt and pepper. Cook 3-5 minutes, stirring often, until fragrant. Stir in bell pepper and mushroom and cook 4-6 minutes more until slightly tender. Fold in spinach and cook just until wilted, remove from heat.
- Add marinara sauce, meatballs and 1 cup mozzarella cheese to vegetable mixture. Stir together until combined then fold in cooked penned noodles.
- Place mixture into a greased casserole dish. Cover with foil and bake 20 minutes. Remove foil and sprinkle remaining mozzarella in center. Bake 20-25 minutes more until heated through and cheese is lightly browned. Remove and cool slightly before serving.